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Louis seeks Marie

Monday, November 30, 2009

Here's an oddity:

Matrimonial. - A young gentleman wishes to meet with a young lady with a view to matrimony. She must be pretty, amiable and intelligent, possess a handsome figure, and have exquisite taste in dress, as she will be liberally supplied with the "vers dos" for that purpose. Address, enclosing carte de visite, Louis XVI., Union square Post office.

Let me first say that I do not speak French and I can't quite make out the phrase in quotes - it looks like "vers dos" to me, but according to my handy Mac translator, that means "towards back," which makes no sense (and according to the same handy translator, from the other direction "towards back" in French is "vers l'arrière," so, whatever, who knows). Any French speakers with better eyes who can correct me, please do so.

Whether or not I'm reading it right, however, my assumption is that he means money. And this is where the ad gets really, really amusing. I am pretty sure this guy is joking, unless he never finished reading about the French Revolution - or has some pretty bizarre ideas about what constitutes a good marriage. Why do I say this? Well, Louis XVI, you know, happened to be executed for treason in 1793. If you were serious about your matrimonial advertisement, and you just had to be so presumptuous as to give yourself the moniker of royalty, is this really the guy you'd pick?

Now I guess it's possible that he's some romantic supporter of the monarchy and this is his tribute to the fallen king, or whatever, but that is belied by his description of his wife - namely that she must have "exquisite taste in dress" and will be "liberally supplied" with, I suppose, money. Since Louis XVI's wife, Marie Antoinette was famous for her taste in clothes as well as her extravagance and willingness to spend a fortune on her dresses - I don't think that's an accident, do you?

No, no, no. "Louis XVI" was being very sly. I'll be he was hoping to see what uneducated women would reply to this, not getting the historical reference. Or maybe, just maybe, he wanted to marry a woman with a very good sense of humor, and wanted someone to write him back who really got the joke.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Unknown November 30, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

Hmmm... I can't quite out make the phrase either, but 'dos' is the Latin word for 'dowry' - although why the bridegroom would be offering to pay the dowry, I don't know.

Pam November 30, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

Maybe he's saying that her dowry will be used solely for her clothes? I had assumed it was French because of the Louis XVI thing, but there's no reason it couldn't be Latin.

A. November 30, 2009 at 1:14 PM  

"dos" in french generally means the bodypart "back". so, "towards the back" is a correct translation.
I kind of tend to think he was an idiot who tried to be all elegant and classy... and then translated "backup" wrongly :-)
Or so i suppose, since it probably means money in this context.
but then, my knowledge of french is of this century ;-)

kate November 30, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

i suspect its a typo that should have been "verts dos" or "vert dos," which would translate to green backs.

From wikipedia: "A United States Note, also known as a Legal Tender Note, was a type of paper money that was issued from 1862 to 1971 in the U.S. They were known popularly as "greenbacks" in their day, a name inherited from the Demand Notes that they replaced in 1862.

Pam November 30, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

kate - you're right! Even I should have been able to guess that - I do know some of my French colors. I wonder if it was a misprint on the paper's part, or if this guy was actually not that fluent either...

Bianca C December 1, 2009 at 1:24 AM  

I think its also greenbacks. Good catch Kate.

I think Louis XVI is a very clever name for someone who is looking for a fashion plate - I am sure he wasn't referring to the French Revolution, or the dauphin's relationship to Marie Antoinette - just the fact that she was so very well dressed.

Unless this is another typo, and he meant to evoke the sun king instead. :-)

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